The day the box arrived, everything changed.
I guess I should explain myself a bit before we start this review. I took a four year course in information technology, specialized in hardware repair and have been working in computer related jobs for the past ten years. I’ve been more or less on the pulse of the PC hardware scene for a while now. For the longest time, the rule of thumb was “always buy and build your own rig, avoid pre-builds.” This was due to the relative and increasing simplicity of computer construction, far more customization options and ease of obtaining parts. Why would you pay someone to do it for you? This was my thought process for the longest time, until the plague struck. Suddenly, between PC enthusiasts getting stimulus money that they wanted to burn, electrical component shortages, and the “Scalp-ocalypse,” PC component shortages were at an all-time high, especially GPUs.
It is no exaggeration to say that for the majority of 2021 you can buy a new 3080 TI for the same price as a used car. For PC gamers, getting the parts for a decent gaming rig without selling an organ to scalpers was a financial and logistical nightmare. I lucked out and upgraded my PC right before the pandemic, so I could see the news rolling in about the difficulty of getting the components from a comfortable distance, glad to have avoided the big drought. This was my thinking when I got the news that we would be receiving a pre-built PC for review from the very nice people at CLX Gaming. CLX offers both ready-to-ship machines across a range of different specifications and configurations, as well as bespoke offerings, so you can pick and choose from a surprisingly comprehensive list of options and features.
When we were approached by CLX for a review, we were very generously given a selection of their off-the-shelf or custom configuration computers as a loaner evaluation unit. The team at CLX handpicked one of their pre-builds for us when we expressed interest in advanced gaming, twitch streaming, video editing and 3D modeling to test, resulting in a link to the CLX RA. We received confirmation of the PC detachment and shipping details. The process of ordering the computer and its delivery went flawlessly, with a big shout out to the Max Borges Agency reps and our ever-suffering local UPS guy who had to drop off our eighty pound monolith.
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To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t convinced these transactions were going to be real until I heard my dog crying at the window, only to look out and see it in our driveway. It came wonderfully packaged, armored for transport in a sturdy wooden case and foam packed both externally and inside the PC behind the glass panel, preventing damage to the graphics card and AIO from any accidents during transport. Once taken out of the plywood sarcophagus, my brain immediately kicked into action and realized what was in front of me. We started giving the PC a cursory walk. The first thing I noticed was that the RTX 3090 was a founders edition model in the graphics card slot, and after triple checking to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating, I could confirm that it was not only real, but beautiful. My own PC build uses an RTX 2070 Super which had what i thought was a more than adequate 8GB of VRAM, which never gave me a problem on all but the latest games. The 3090 with 24GB of vram changed all that, but more on that later.
There is a custom flame decal on the 011 dynamic cover from Lian-Li on the glass side panel. It felt a little straight out of the box, but it genuinely grew on me when I ran my tests on the rig itself, catching the glow of the remote LED lights in the corner of my eye, giving it an almost “fake hotel fireplace” kind of charm. But once the initial inspection was over, we hooked her up to officially kick the tires and see what she could do, and man oh man, she did not disappoint. Another fun fact about you, I’m what I like to consider a “messy perfectionist”, which I like happily sacrificing tertiary factors like human comfort and any kind of emergency savings for optimal performance from my electronics.
The next thing that jumped out at me looking through the case was how well everything was dimensioned. The custom case perfectly fits the motherboard and graphics card, leaving just enough room for future expansion, but still tight enough to promote improved airflow through the case’s main compartment with the absolutely overkill 10 RGB fans. Another small mention, but the cable management was impeccable, with all the cords zipped together and out of the way. The debate over how much of a thermal difference poor cable management makes will no doubt outlive me, but it goes a long way to making any computer look crisp and clean.
I’m also very fussy when it comes to gaming performance, as I usually make a game that I have graphical issues with until I upgrade my hardware instead of turning down the graphics settings. like a farmer. So, suffice it to say, there are a handful of games I basically haven’t touched despite being pretty high on my never-ending to-do list. (Soon, Metro Exodus, I promise I’ll be back for you!) 3090 was the solution I never knew I needed. Absolutely broken everything we threw at it. Shadow of the Tomb Raider? Maxed settings, locked 144hz at 1440p. Hitman 3? Maxed settings, locked 144hz at 1440p. Quake 2 RTX? Locked. Eternal doom? Locked. Crysis Remake on the well-known uncapped ‘it can run Crysissettings? The PC asked back “did I stutter?” Hell, I even threw up Star citizen on it, just to see what would happen. 144hz locked. Control? locked with all the beautiful Ray Tracing we expect from it.
Thinking I could trip this beast with modern benchmark games was as vain as thinking I could derail a freight train on a dime. To its credit, it was the ONLY game that could blunt the beast Cyberpunk 2077and even with that it never dipped below 40 FPS with all settings cranked to Psycho (this is with DLSS OFF because I wanted to see what it would take to throttle this thing) but I blame the performance more on poor game optimization itself even more than a few errors in the rigging.
To test out video editing and streaming capabilities, we asked for a top-shelf processor. The answer was the AMD Ryzen 9 5950X, a completely overkill 16-core processor, as well as 32 GB DDR4 from the G.SKILL Trident Z Neo. On top of all that rendering power, the aforementioned looper to an Nvidia 3090 graphics card had 25GB of GDDR6X under the hood, which may well be the secret weapon of this whole rig. We were completely unprepared, not even having any 4K resolution video to attempt editing with. In the case of Adobe Premiere Pro (the program that led us to choose the AMD processor in the first place) these components allowed rendering times and screen sharing with ease and sharp bitrates.
Even just sharing 1080p or 60fps gameplay on a Discord conversation, with webcams running, didn’t affect game stability at all. It certainly helps that we have a local ISP that provides 1gbps fiber internet which we have cabled directly to my PC desk. Combined with 4TB of cooling storage and OS Storage a full Terabyte MVMe M.2 SSD, it’s clear that this machine feels less intended for an enthusiast content creator and more intended for a Pixar animator or one of Marques Brownlee’s staff compiling 8K source video.
I’ve seen what the bleeding edge can do and I don’t know if I can ever go back. But one of the things that slowly dawned on me as I ran all of this was just how good it was worked. Right out of the box I didn’t have a single issue with crashes or configuration errors, we just plugged everything in, ran driver updates and that was it. The whole process took about 10 minutes and required absolutely no technical skills or knowledge to get started. Plus, with all the custom configuration options that CLX gives you for the system creation tools, it’s safe to say that anyone who wants the latest state-of-the-art PC can get one now without touching a screwdriver. The CLX RA is an amazing rig that sets the standard for everything from running the most advanced games to graphic design to video editing and rendering. While it’s completely overkill for most people’s daily driver, if you need to crush a project you’re working on, look no further.
My aforementioned personal PC with a 2070 GPU doesn’t even come close to the horsepower of this unit, and I actively try to update the components as often as I can. The catch is that this unit is valued at $5123 from CLX’s website, and while an enthusiast like myself, or maybe even you, can go to PC Parts Picker and find these components for less or MSRP, what you’re paying for is build quality , high end service and ease of use, as a purchase even comes with repairs and service available on your components. The biggest advantage of CLX is the great versatility of these builds. Just because we reviewed the top of the line, max overdrive PC they had available doesn’t mean this boutique PC store doesn’t have builds available for regular consumers. The CLX RA has great components even at a competitive $1789, and there are others available as well. The site’s user interface is simple, making clear lists of components available with deep customization and concise information so that even a novice can shop for their own custom build.